Generally, oddsmakers can’t make New England Patriots’ point spreads high enough.
Even though the Patriots are the defending Super Bowl champions, on an 8-0 start and everyone knows they’re the best team in the NFL, they’re still 6-2 against the spread this season. They’re covering most of the time despite some massive point spreads. Nobody has gone broke betting on the Patriots through the years.
That’s what makes this week interesting. Bettors apparently like the Baltimore Ravens.
The line for a fantastic Patriots-Ravens matchup on Sunday night started in Las Vegas with the Patriots as 4-point favorites. Then it went to 3.5. Then 3. That means the early bets are coming in not on the 8-0, supremely dominant defending Super Bowl champions, but the Ravens instead. Interesting.
Lamar Jackson is having a great, historic season. But the Patriots defense is as well. Their 2-19 TD-to-INT ratio allowed looks like a typo. That shouldn’t even be possible in the modern NFL. The Patriots did allow some rushing yards to Cleveland Browns back Nick Chubb last week, and maybe that’s why people prefer the Ravens on Sunday.
We know Baltimore will try to run the ball, and Jackson will be a big part of that. This is a great challenge for Bill Belichick. Even with the increase in read-option plays and run-pass options, the Ravens’ offense is unique because of Jackson and how often they use him as a runner. You can imagine Belichick enjoying solving a problem he’s never faced before.
If we assume the Patriots can nullify Jackson as a passer — Jackson has been much improved in that department this season, but still is not great — then the Ravens offense becomes one-dimensional. It’s still not easy to stop a running game that has a quarterback on pace for more than 1,300 rushing yards even if you know it’s coming, but I assume Belichick will find a way. The Patriots are masterful at taking away what an opponent does best. And I think New England’s offense will be good enough. Don’t forget, the struggling Browns blasted the Ravens defense in Baltimore just a few weeks ago.
Everyone seems to be anticipating the upset, but I’ll make the boring pick and take the Patriots at minus-3 in the Westgate SuperContest and minus-3.5 in Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em. The Patriots are the NFL’s best team, and I don’t mind picking Belichick to make life miserable for Jackson. Either way, it’s one of the most fascinating matchups of the season.
Here are the against the spread picks for NFL Week 9:
Jaguars (+1.5) over Texans: The early London game isn’t a bad one. The Texans’ cornerback injuries worry me. So does picking against Deshaun Watson, but I prefer the Jaguars here. J.J. Watt’s injury is an enormous blow for Houston.
Buccaneers (+6) over Seahawks: Seattle’s defense allowed Matt Schaub to throw for 460 yards. Tampa Bay’s offense can score enough to keep it close, even if it’s with a backdoor cover at the end.
Browns (-3) over Broncos: If the Browns can’t beat the Brandon Allen-led Broncos, then that’s probably it for Freddie Kitchens. I’m not saying Kitchens would get fired on Monday, but it would be clear at that point he’s the wrong guy (if that’s not apparent already).
Chargers (+3.5) over Packers: The Packers are a good team and the Chargers’ stadium will feel like Lambeau West, but I’m wary enough of Green Bay that this line feels a little high. And we’ve seen the Chargers start slow and then make a run.
And here are the rest of the picks ...
49ers (-10) over Cardinals (picked Thursday): It looked OK until Andy Isabella got behind the 49ers defense. I don’t think there’s much to worry about with the 49ers, even if Richard Sherman seems concerned.
Redskins (+9.5) over Bills: Advanced stats really aren’t buying the Bills, and maybe we saw that start to show itself last week in the blowout loss to the Eagles. Taking Washington is always scary, but maybe the Bills are a little overrated.
Vikings (off) over Chiefs: Not sure if Patrick Mahomes is going to start or not, which is why there’s no line on the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em. I assume Mahomes won’t play, but I’d probably take the Vikings either way. They’re playing really well right now and I can’t imagine Mahomes will be 100 percent if he does play.
Dolphins (+3) over Jets: I think Miami wins. The Jets are in a bad place right now. I don’t trust Adam Gase (by the way, did you see Kenyan Drake last night finally get a shot to be a lead back? Not bad). They have no healthy linebackers and just traded Leonard Williams. They looked really bad for the final three quarters of last week’s loss to the Jaguars. And I think the Dolphins should realize this is a great shot at a win and avoiding 0-16.
Bears (+5) over Eagles: I think getting away from Chicago actually helps the Bears, and specifically Mitchell Trubisky. At least he expects to get booed in Philadelphia. The home fans, who are as tense as Matt Nagy and everyone else as things go bad following a fantastic 2018 season, aren’t helping.
Colts (+1) over Steelers: Pittsburgh really didn’t look good for most of that game against the Dolphins on Monday night. I trust the Colts to come in well prepared. James Conner being less than 100 percent doesn’t help Pittsburgh either.
Panthers (-4) over Titans: I don’t think Carolina is as bad as they looked last week and will rebound. I believe the Titans are better with Ryan Tannehill as their starter, but I still don’t think they’re very good.
Lions (+2) over Raiders: Two teams that are hard to read from week to week. I guess I’m leaning on Matthew Stafford, who is on a hot streak.
Giants (+7) over Cowboys: Not like I feel great about this one, but maybe we get a big Giants effort on Monday night against their rival.
Last week: 9-6
Season to date: 63-59
SuperContest: 1-4 last week, 14-25-1 season to date
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